Former Israeli Chief Rabbi Bakshi-Doron Indicted for Fraud

Rabbi accused of fraud and breach of faith for role in what has become known as the 'Rabbis' File' scandal, involving the Chief Rabbinate.

Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson
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Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

Former Sephardi Chief Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron was indicted on Monday for complicity in granting about 1,000 fictitious rabbinical ordination certificates to members of the security services so that they could receive significantly higher wages.

The charges include fraud, attempted fraud and breach of trust.

Bakshi-Doron is not the first defendant in the case. In 2007, 10 indictments were filed against other senior rabbis in the Chief Rabbinate, who were accused of systematically awarding false rabbinical ordination certificates to thousands of members of the security forces. The “students” ? policemen, soldiers and Israel Prison Service staffers ? were ordained as rabbis after a short period of study. This entitled them to pay raises from the state of NIS 2,000 to NIS 4,000 a month, on the grounds that they now had academic degrees.

The prosecution estimates that the scam cost the state hundreds of millions of shekels. Several police officers who were suspected of being aware of the scam were also indicted.

Bakshi-Doron served as chief rabbi during the years when the scam was in progress, and when it first came to light, he was questioned under caution. Initially, the prosecution decided against indicting him, but it changed its mind when the rabbi’s courtroom testimony in the cases that did go to trial contradicted what he had originally told investigators.

According to a statement issued by the State Prosecutor’s Office Monday, Bakshi-Doron testified that he had directed the head of the rabbinical ordination department to turn a blind eye and grant the ordinations, despite being aware that the recipients had not fulfilled the

requirements. Following his testimony, Bakshi-Doron was summoned to two further

interrogations, which ultimately led to his indictment.

“The defendant knew that the holders of the fictitious ordinations would receive significant salary benefits from the state coffers,” read the indictment submitted to the Jerusalem District Court. “The defendant knew that hundreds of different classes were opened throughout the country, and that at the very least, many hundreds of students would, due to his actions and directives, receive significant salary benefits at the expense of public funds ? benefits that weren’t due these members of the security forces.”

The scam came to light purely by chance. In 2002, a senior officer at national police headquarters was examining the personnel records of a border policeman facing disciplinary action for domestic violence when he noticed what seemed to be an irregularity in the accused officer’s pay slip. In addition to the ordinary police salary, the man was receiving a bonus for having a “rabbinical degree.” Wondering how the border policeman, who was secular, could be a rabbi, the senior officer alerted the Justice Ministry department in charge of investigating police misconduct. A subsequent investigation revealed that 580 such “rabbis” were registered in the Israel Police, most of them secular.

Bakshi-Doron’s attorneys, Jacob Weinroth and Yaron Kosteliz, criticized the prosecution’s change of heart in the case, saying the 72-year-old rabbi had been done “a serious injustice.” They noted that 12 years had passed since the alleged offenses took place, and five years since the prosecution told Bakshi-Doron it was dropping the case.

There is “no basis” for putting the rabbi on trial, as his behavior was “impeccable,” the attorneys said. Bakshi-Doron, they argued, “received nothing” from the alleged payoffs, and had done “everything in his power” to prevent fraudulent rabbinical students from illegally receiving state funds.

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